The ultimate success of ISL (Indian Super League) has not only created a platform for young, unnoticed players to share dug-outs with highly experienced players and mentors, but also attracted many eyes from the Big League Football Clubs from the rest of the world on the talented mine of these diamonds. The most recent example of it is Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, a 6’5 foot 23 year old lad from Mohali, then became a national sensation when he was approached to play for a Norway-based Football Club, called Stabaek FC, being the first Indian to play for a top-division European club. This Football Club had also played in qualifying rounds of UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, the two pivotal tournaments of European calendar.
It was not less than a moment of celebration for many football enthusiasts who, when I last checked, used to celebrate at the time of either Ronaldo’s hat-trick or when Messi’s accomplished another goal. It’s a fact that while many other sport events like Boxing, Hockey, Wrestling and Shooting succeeded to achieve both followers and sponsors lately, Football was one such sport that made a diasporic image among its followers. They love the game and also follows it regularly, even plays it either as a hobby or as passion, but they aren’t big fans of their own country’s team. In fact they might know the names and nationality of all the players of their favorite club, but they don’t even know the names of all eleven players of their team.
At this time, a news like this is not less than an achievement. In fact, it is a one of the highlighting moment of Indian Football history. It’s not the first time that an Indian has played for European clubs. Players like Mohammad Salim, Baichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, Renedy Singh, Gouramangi Singh and Subrata Paul had also made a cut in European teams, but they haven’t played a competitive fixture abroad.
“I’m the only Indian player to play for a top division club in Europe so… I’m lucky,” he said. He has played for top I-League clubs East Bengal and Pailan Arrows and chose to play for Stabaek over ISL. The goalkeeper was part of the Indian team that won 2007 AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Championship qualifiers and also played in Guangzhou Asian Games 2010.